Love the color, hate the mood

I love the color blue. I love my blue eyes, and if I have a choice when it comes to wardrobe, I usually choose the blue option. There are few shades of blue that I don’t like, actually.

That being said, the mood known as “blue” sucks ass.

I’ve been blue for a while. It comes and goes in varying degrees, but it’s almost always somewhere in my head, tainting my outlook on life with a cyan haze. Whether it’s from the decreased sunlight of the winter season, from the bipolar disorder, from life stress, from weight gain, or from all of the above, feeling blue blows.

My most recent depression has led me down some bumpy thought-roads lately. I’ve been thinking about what I enjoy doing now, comparing it to what I used to enjoy doing, debating if the loss of joy in some things is depression-related or something else … and I’ve come to the conclusion that some things can stay, some things should probably go, and some things need to be pared down to an emotionally-manageable level.

Whether it’s through food or shopping, I’ve been futilely chasing a much-needed serotonin high. No matter what I eat or how much I buy, though, whatever satisfaction I get from it is fleeting. Sometimes I’m depressed again before I even finish my snack or before my order gets in.

Before you ask, yes, I’m taking my meds. Here’s a shocker for you: Meds aren’t always a permanent, 100% “fix” for this. Science tries, but sometimes life kicks science’s ass.

Here’s just a taste of what life has thrown at me during this blue time:

  • Lackluster book sales (though hiring a cover designer to revamp some of my covers has helped).
  • Frustration over feeling inadequate compared to my more successful author friends who can afford ads and PAs and fancy covers, etc.
  • My “pro bono” personal assistant (who refused to take any payment from me) quit doing her job for most of her clients, including the paid ones–including me–and is now ghosting me. Since I had “hired” her already, I can’t get another PA to take me on until I can talk to her and break our informal agreement.
  • Severe depression over my weight. I tried keto for about two years, and I grew increasingly depressed the longer I did the diet, lamenting that I couldn’t eat foods I liked and that the limited foods I could eat had become boring … not to mention that I had started regaining weight while still on keto. I am trying to get in with a bariatric surgeon for a consult.
  • Sudden increase in introversion/social anxiety. I hate going out anymore, unless it’s an extremely small gathering. I dread the next few SCA events, which I’m obligated to go to. I even dread spending time with immediate family.
  • Embroidery’s no fun anymore, at least not the hand work. I have a great new sewing/embroidery machine that I have yet to try out, but just the thought of the aching fingers from holding the hoop and the needle stalls me every time I try to start one of the projects I have lined up for others.
  • I’ve lost all interest in becoming a Laurel in the SCA. It went from a mild disinterest to a “maybe someday, maybe not” kind of vibe to a sudden “hell, I just want to make pretty things in my own way without worrying about historical accuracy/documentation/research.”
  • Impostor syndrome–BIG TIME. I feel like everyone who’s ever said anything good about my writing has been lying to be nice, even though part of me knows that’s not true.
  • “Mascne” (mask + acne) from the damn two-year-long pandemic. Add in the stress of the above, and yeah … my face, my chin especially, is suffering.
  • Worry over friends that are clear across the country who are sick with COVID or have lost loved ones to the virus, and I can’t do Jack shit to help.
  • A laundry list of other things, including the lack of any kind of motivation to do even basic household chores. Like laundry.

I’ve even prepared a visual aid for this emotional muck:

The picture on the right is me, unfiltered. Breakout on the chin (partly hidden by the angle of the shot–trust me, there’s more), ruddy complexion, blah. The top left picture is me with filters and touch-ups and all that jazz. Maybe I made the eyes too dark of a blue and the skin a bit too pale, but otherwise looking smooth and bright. This is the “outer face” I try to put on when I’m dealing with others. I try to hide the mental and emotional “blemishes,” so I don’t get a dozen people a day asking me what’s wrong.

The bottom left picture is how I often feel lately. Dull, broken out, washed out, dim, dark.

I’ll get through this. I always do. But life might be a little different after. I need to do some hard thinking about what I want to do with my time and how I want to proceed with my daily schedule. Some things may need to be dropped, while I may need to spend more time on others that actually bring some semblance of joy to my life.

Well, it’s time to get off the computer and finish getting ready for work. Oddly enough, that’s the least of my stressors right now!

Out with the Old, in with Uncertainty

2020 was a shitshow. 2021 wasn’t much better. What will 2022 bring?

Of course, there’s the pandemic to deal with still. It might have slowed a fraction–maybe–but it still rages on. There’s the usual work grind, the usual life “stuff” that encompasses much of my time.

Oh, yeah…and the writing.

That last one is perhaps the most uncertain of all. I took a break from writing near the end of the year, more for my mental health than anything, and I’m just not sure where I’m going with it anymore. I mean, I have a couple of book planned to write this year, but it’s nothing like 2021 was. Take a look:

Four novels released. Three novellas. One novella re-released as a solo title. A trilogy of novellas, re-formatted into a single novel and re-released, complete with new cover. And two new epilogues written to a series that also received new covers. Whew!

Three of this year’s releases will also get new covers in the near future (I’m sure you can guess which three just by looking at the image above–I mean, there are three that are clearly not as impressive as the rest. Lol!)

But back to the end of 2021, and its impact on 2022.

I had planned a three-book series, to be released in January, February, and April. I also had signed up for a multitude of box sets, meaning I had several novellas I’d committed to writing. Finally, I planned on finishing the first draft of book 4 in the Abnormal series sometime in 2022. All this, plus whatever came along and sparked my creativity in between.

In short, I was trying to plan a full-time author writing schedule with part-time writing availability–and it nearly destroyed me.

Bipolar disorder isn’t something I try to hide. It’s part of who I am, like being tall or having blue eyes. The mania is tricky, though, and I’d planned all these things during some manic moments when I thought I could conquer the writing world by storm.

Mania doesn’t last forever, and when I came down from it, I crashed hard. Suddenly I was caught up in a massive episode of depression that had me realizing my limitations in a crushing way.

I cancelled the preorder for the first of the novels I was struggling to write. I shelved that series indefinitely, possibly never to surface again. It just wasn’t quality work, and I hated how contrived it was feeling. What little I could force onto the page was just … terrible. I backed out of all but one box set for 2022.

Time to pause, rewind, and rethink.

Going into 2022, I only have a handful of books planned:

  • I still plan on working on and finishing the fourth book in the main Abnormal series
  • I kept in one box set, which is due out I believe in the late summer/early fall of 2022
  • I might–*might*–add in a Valentine’s novella this year, but I’m leaving the option open

For now, that’s it. Aside from revamping a few covers and buckling down on the marketing front (which includes hiring a paid personal assistant to help), I’m going to keep it low-key and low-stress. If a new idea comes to me, I might try to write it as it comes to me…or I might take some notes and set it aside for later.

I won’t stop writing altogether. I know that for sure. I just can’t keep up the pace of a full-time author when I still am working a full-time job.

What a difference a pandemic makes…

Friendship. Sometimes it’s strong, strong enough to weather any storm. Sometimes, though, it’s a tenuous thing, holding on by a thread, and you don’t even know when it snapped.

The pandemic hasn’t made much of a dent in some friendships. In fact, I’d say some of them have solidified even as the world scurried off to hide away at home. Other friendships, however, haven’t fared so well. Some that I previously thought to be solid have now faded into fog, slipping through my fingers as I try desperately to grab onto them. They crumble like a sandcastle kicked by a bully, and I’m left wondering what I did wrong.

It’s not like I only ever talked to these people in person. In fact, some of the friendships that have fallen victim to the impact of the coronavirus were with people I’d only ever met online. Not much of a change in those conditions, right? So why did our conversations thin to the point of evaporation?

Part of it is my fault, I’m sure. I suck at maintaining the connections I have with people. Some of it may be a bit of ADHD-like issues with object permanence: if I don’t interact with Thing/Person, I forget that Thing/Person exists. If they’re not in front of me and not on my screen to show me they’re alive and interacting, my neurodivergent brain tucks their file away for safekeeping, never to be seen again unless they initiate contact. I have to actively force myself to make contact sometimes, push myself to click that icon and type “Hi!”

The sadness comes when I finally make that effort, and I get crickets in response.

It also comes when the realization hits that friendships I’d previously thought to be well-founded turn out to be built on a rickety house of cards. Conditional friendships, ones where I didn’t know what the conditions were until they were no longer met. Stop seeing Person A or doing Activity B, and the friendship gradually disintegrates.

Why should I be sad at losing fair-weather friends? I don’t know, to be honest. Maybe it’s just a visceral, instinctual reaction to any loss of a good thing. A part of me mourns what once was, even if I had misinterpreted that once-friendship. Maybe I even mourn the illusion of friendship. Regardless of what it was, it’s now gone. Vanished. Poof! No more.

From an emotional standpoint, these losses have wrecked me. From an analytical standpoint, though, I find it interesting to ruminate on how these once-friendships will (or won’t) resume after the pandemic–if there is such a thing as “after the pandemic.” At this point, it seems never-ending.

I still have plenty of friends, and I’ll have plenty when I emerge on the other side of this reality. But for the ones I’ve lost? Yeah. I’ll cry a little bit more for now.

I’ll mourn, but then, like them, I’ll move on.

Table for One

There are many tables in life, both physical and metaphorical. You’ve got the jocks’ table, the cool kids’ table, the nerds’ table, the freaks-and-geeks’ table, and then…

….you have the table for one. That one who just doesn’t fit at any of the other tables.

I’ve heard of the indie author community being segregated into these metaphorical tables, and it kind of saddens me. Weren’t we all kind of wedged in with the freaks and geeks growing up? Why not just let everyone in? But I guess the tables have been set, and once again I’m the odd woman out.

Don’t get me wrong; the freaks and geeks, as always, let me scooch into their table if there’s an open seat. But do I really fit in there? Am I being allowed to attend because I’m welcome, or because there’s that bit of pity in the backs of their minds. Or the fronts, if I’m being honest. Because of various neuroses and psychological constraints, they don’t know me well enough to know if I should be “let in,” and who can blame them? I’m the nutjob sitting in the corner talking to herself. I’m the tagalong tugging on their shirttails and asking advice. I’m the one who’s been at this indie writing biz for almost six years, and I am the Jon Snow of indie writing. I know nothing.

There are authors straight out the gate who know more than I do. I’ve been learning all this shit as I go, but some authors burst onto the scene already knowing how to schedule takeovers, snag reliable ARC readers, connect with fans, etc. Me? I’m over here shoving my books in peoples’ faces because I just don’t get how all this works.

I had to ask a fellow author how to describe “me” to potential readers. How to “sell” the being that is “me.” How lame is that? Who doesn’t know the interesting things about themselves? Who doesn’t know some cool factoids that set them apart from the masses? Me. That’s who. It’s me. I don’t know.

I don’t think I’ll ever make it to the cool kids’ table. I’ll be lucky if the freaks-and-geeks let me sit with them. I wonder if the authors at the other tables even see me as a fellow author. I get a certain vibe from many of them, that air of “oh, she’s just a reader who wants to be a writer.” It stings, man. I mean, I work hard to hone my craft. I spend hours every day working at graphics, marketing, writing, editing, design, etc., only to be shot down when I ask for help or offer my assistance, what little I may have to offer. Can I afford fancy covers? No. I design my own. Can I afford teams of personal assistants? Hell, I’m eternally grateful to have found the one miracle worker who’s willing to work with my meager budget. Does that make me any less of an author? Does that diminish my hard work? I’d like to think it doesn’t, but maybe in this nightmare repeat of high school it does.

I almost don’t care anymore. A few of the weirdos have seemingly accepted me. Maybe that’s all I need. Maybe the freaks-and-geeks table is where it’s at. Who needs to be posh or popular? Who wants to be a mean girl or a Heather or a Karen anyway? Maybe I should be a Morticia instead. Roll up in here with my tattoos and piercings and love for the freak side of life.

Table for one, please. Would I like a candle? Sure.

I’ve got some bridges to burn.

Life, the Universe, and Everything

Well, that time has come. The age where it all comes together… Right?

I’ve finally hit that golden nerd age of 42: the answer to life, the universe, and everything. Yesterday was my birthday, and overall, it was a pretty decent day. Did I get cake? Nope. Did I get lots of presents? Also no. But did I enjoy my day? Y’know what? I kinda did.

I slept like shit. I had my quarterly psychiatrist appointment. I worked. Had dinner with the family. Watched some TV with my husband, then went to bed early. Overall, though, it was a good day. I think I liked it more than some of the birthdays of the past when I’ve partied the night away.

I don’t have huge plans for 42. I mean, I’ll continue writing. I’ll try to up my marketing game. Get my name out there. I think I’m going to relax this year, though. Take it easy. Not stress so much.

Do I think this is the year I’ll make it big in the indie publishing world? Nope. To be honest, I don’t expect to get much further than I’ve already gone in that respect, shy of just producing more material. I’m just going to keep writing at my own pace, with the hope that I’ll eventually find my niche. If not, oh well. I can’t let my lack of comparative success eat at me too much. So what if I haven’t gotten the most sales? So what if I haven’t earned a solo bestseller title? It’s all relative. If I have even a few followers who enjoy my work, that should be enough for me. Yeah, I can’t quit my day job with only a few followers, but that doesn’t have to mean I give up.

Is this the answer–this kind of detached peace, this calm serenity? Maybe. Maybe this is the time in life where I come to the sensible conclusion, rather than the defeatist one.

Strange Fears

Patriotism. It used to be a thing of pride. A good thing to have.

So why, just days after my country celebrated its independence–arguably the most patriotic day of the year–am I terrified when I see someone sporting our flag with pride?

Perhaps my perception of patriotism has changed since good ol’ Orange-Face was in office. I mean, during his tenure the people most proud of my country were the ones who supported that idjit, who threw themselves blindly at his ignorance and intolerance. Those people waved the flag with pride. They wore flag hats and shirts and plastered their cars and trucks with flag stickers. Now, to me at least, flag = hate. No longer is “patriot” associated with “mom” or “soldier” or “veteran.” Now, I associate “patriot” with “bigot” and “racist” and “hateful, spiteful person.” Weird, right?

I bet the people who stormed the Capitol earlier this year thought they were patriots. I bet those people sporting MAGA hats and Trumper bumpers think they’re patriots. Me? I’m kind of an anti-patriot now.

And I’m kind of mortified to be an American.

Now, I’m not planning on leaving the good ol’ U.S. I’m not jumping a plane to Europe or Canada or somewhere to escape the fear I feel. I’ll deal with it. But am I a patriot? Hell no.

How did it get so bad? It’s like living in a twisted dystopia, only it’s real. I can blame Orange-Face all I want, but he’s only a symbol, a rallying point. There had to be supporters for him to get elected, to have the pull he did. There had to be supporters for a whole slew of people to take guns to our capitol and be assholes. The thing that sickens me, that sets my nerves on end and raises my hackles, is that there are people out there, THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE, who ACTUALLY THINK IT WAS A GOOD IDEA TO VOTE FOR HIM. There are HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS who said “You know what? Let’s vote for regression. Let’s vote for sadism and bigotry and elitism.” Millions, even. People who voted not once, but TWICE for that symbol, that rallying point.

I thank the Gods that the twice-voted didn’t get their way this last election.

Now, you might be a “patriot.” You might be offended at reading this. If you are, then you’re following the wrong blog. My books aren’t for you, and my viewpoints certainly are not for you. Go off to your NRA meeting and, I don’t know, espouse your privilege to someone who cares.

Am I privileged? To an extent, yeah, I am. I’m a white woman. I don’t know what it’s like to be marginalized to the extent that most minorities are. I have that small bit of privilege that my skin tone gives me. Does it mean I support those in power who want to rise above everyone “else” because of that privilege? Nope. I’m for the little guy. The underdog. The minorities. Those are my people. If that, combined with my disgust in how the “patriots” in my country have been acting in recent years, negates my privilege in some way, then so be it. I don’t need to be privileged. I don’t need to be better than anyone else. I’m cool with not being part of the “in” crowd.

Nope, I’m no patriot. If I ever was one to begin with, which I’m not sure I was, I sure as hell am not now.

As per usual, my post has gone sideways in that I’ve begun to ramble and repeat myself. I think that means I’m done for now.

I’m sure thing will eventually get better. I’ll find pride in my country … someday. For now, though, I’ll sit in the back of the class and daydream of days when we can all see a flag and not flinch at the ingrained implications.

Blank pages

Blank pages. Blank screens. They sit there, mocking me.

After rapid-fire churning out four novellas and six novels in the past year or so, I’m once again stuck in the “you’re not allowed to think” phase of writing. I try to think, to get the words to leave the recesses of my brain and venture onto the page, but that’s a hard “no” these days. Even though I have a pretty decent chapter-by-chapter outline, when it comes to getting the prose down I just can’t.

I go through these phases a lot, but even though I’ve been able to get through each of them so far, while I’m in this state it’s always hard to imagine getting out of it. It’s like I’m stuck at the bottom of a deep, black pit, and the only way to find words again is to climb out. Too bad I suck at climbing.

I think part of my problem is genre-hopping. I was hardcore in the zone with the paranormal romance reverse harem books, but then I slowed down and wrote a M/F paranormal romance with low-to-medium steam. I thought maybe that would help me switch gears to dystopian sci-fi, which is the setting/genre for my next project, but sadly that’s not the case. I have all of next month to finish this prequel novella for the Abnormalverse books, but each day that I go without writing–or with writing very little–is another several hundred words that I have to make up the next time I get to writing. Might not seem like a lot when my usual daily word count goal is one or two thousand words, but those missed words add up.

Even this blog post is taking a lot out of me, metaphorically speaking. It should be easy to write, but I’m dragging the words out of my thick skull and jamming them onto the screen in a vain attempt to feel like a writer.

The words will come–eventually. In the meantime, I’ll have to keep forcing them out until I get back in the flow of things. I can always fix crap if that’s what it turns out to be, but I can’t fix nothing. Nothing takes a lot more to repair than crap.

Stuck in Power Mode

After the breakneck writing pace of the last year or so, I find I’ve gotten stuck on powering through my drafts, even though it’s not necessary with my current schedule. This has made me woefully neglectful of other projects, like this website. I don’t know why I’m so hyperfocused on finishing each draft as quickly as possible; perhaps it’s just a knee-jerk reaction to spending a year giving myself short deadlines.

Latest on the docket: a prequel novella for Abnormal. Titled Gifts Divided, it chronicles the life of a young Sniper who is selected to join the Gene Scan Units after a devastating war and concurrent virus decimate the US. I’m excited to get back into the Abnormalverse and have more to show for that world, and maybe once I get this novella done I’ll be able to dip back into the fourth Abnormal book, Dead Cities Rising. My previous attempts at starting ABN4 have been met with frustration and dissatisfaction with the direction it was taking. Maybe now I’ll be in a better mindset.

I also am struggling with keeping up the marketing aspects of the writing biz. I was doing okay for a while, but now I’ve started slipping again. As with other things in my life, the pace of my writing has caused me to neglect other things. I used to be fanatical about making up graphics for quotes and snippets of my work, as well as other promotional things, but now I find myself struggling to grasp the attention span needed to do these.

Call it ADHD hyperfocus. Call it obsession. Call it what you will; the point is, I need to break out of whatever it is.

First thing’s first: Stop writing like I’ll die if I don’t make my word count today. Granted, I made my word count already today, but that’s only because I’m giving myself two months to write 20k words…so my word goal is laughingly low at the moment. Still, I need to allow myself to do other things. I have to snap out of it.

With my reverse harem trilogies done (for the time being), I don’t have the pressure that I did before to finish ASAP. The box sets that I’m still participating in are spaced out enough that I have plenty of time to take a more leisurely pace to my work-outside-of-work.

After I slow my roll, I’ll get this site back on track. I plan on scheduling a minor overhaul, where some old works will be free (with newsletter signup) and others will be back in a different format. Then, once that’s done, I’ll get graphics for promotions back in production, and I’ll probably rework my Facebook reader group while I’m at it. Maybe pick a day during the week to feature other authors in a mini-takeover. Pay it forward.

Now that I’ve broken away from the writing cave long enough to write this post, I think I’ll start on this right away. Close the Word doc, open some stock photo images, and get to work on other, non-writing stuff.

Keep on the lookout for updates to this site! I really do intend to make it pretty and what have you soon. 😉

Drowning

Been a hot minute since I’ve posted a blog post….

…maybe it’s because I’ve been drowning in my writing work!

Let me clarify: For the past several months, I’ve basically been “chain writing.” What’s that? Well, it’s like chain smoking, only writing. As soon as I finish one project, I’ve got another ready to go. Back to back to back to back to…you get the idea. Good for productivity, bad for the psyche. I haven’t even had the opportunity to really promote my work because I’m so busy working! It’s terrible, but what can I do? Until/unless I can magically afford a personal assistant, I’m doing it all myself. The writing, the graphics, the promotions, the takeovers–all of it. And magic isn’t happening for a long, long time at this rate.

The writing is good. It’s solid. But the marketing? I’m floundering. I just can’t manage both at once, and it’s killing my writing career.

Now, some may argue that it’s not much of a career anyway, but I had a good thing for a while. Until recently, I had moderate indie success–or at least, what I considered to be success. Things were being read and reviewed and bought. That’s tanking hard now, though, and I have to fess up and say it’s all due to my own marketing shortcomings. Even if I knew the best way to promote myself, I just don’t have the time and energy with my current workload.

The lack of energy to promote myself is crippling. I know I should be gathering other authors to do a takeover in my reader group, but I can’t bring myself to format a Google spreadsheet to even start. This is only a week before release, too!! EEK!

I’ll get back out from under water someday. Today? Today I have to pick my ass up off the ground and force myself to take this “day off” from writing to get in gear. I have to format and upload my paperback for Tuesday’s release. I have to create graphics promoting the book, then post them in a few book groups to garner interest. I have to create that damn spreadsheet and see who I might conscript to sign up. I have to, because there’s no one else.

I’ll try to remember to work on this blog more. To update my site, to step up my marketing game.

I may be drowning now, but if I just learn how to swim, I might survive this.

In the Stars

Well, that successfully jacked up my day.

Every author wants 5-star reviews, right? I mean, that’s the goal, isn’t it? Well, not like this it’s not.

Let me back it up a bit. As an author, I try to get my books into a select group of readers’ hands ahead of release, so they can read and review it. The process is called ARC (Advanced Review Copy) reading, and when it works, it works well. When it doesn’t work, however, the whole thing comes crashing down.

From my mood, you’d think I got a one-star review, but that’s not the case. I got that coveted 5-star from an ARC reader. Yeah. But at what price?

This reviewer posted the entire plot, including spoilers and twists, in her review. That’s right. No “Spoiler Alert,” no warning, just straight-up posted the plot. Posted MAJOR spoilers. Right out in the open on Amazon. And I have no recourse, no action I can take at this time. The only option I’m given is “Report Abuse,” and though I feel violated by this “review,” there was no actual abuse in it. Maybe literary abuse??

I’m beyond livid. I’m so pissed I could scream. I won’t, but I could.

My trust in the ARC process, in the review process as a whole, is broken. I wanted to believe I could trust the ARC readers to review with some modicum of intelligence, but this–this has shaken me.

What happens if another reviewer slips through who doesn’t understand how fundamentally harmful it is to the author to post spoilers like this? What if it’s someone I can’t conveniently message on Facebook to request an edit? What if a random reader, not an ARC reader but just a well-meaning reader, reviews something like this? I shudder at the thought.

I have to step back from this. Maybe today’s work day will distract me enough, or maybe I can occupy my mind in other ways until I’m less raw. Regardless, until this reviewer sees the message I sent, there’s nothing I can do. Even then, she could get angry at me for complaining about the spoilers and leave it up there. Or she could change it to one star out of spite.

I’ll take the one star if it means the spoilers go away.